Perfect is A Pain in the Ass

I love boxing coaching. It’s the most fun I can have standing up. The rewards you get from working with people trying to learn something and improve themselves are worth every moment. The kids are great, and they keep me on my toes – right now I have kids that ‘drift’, kids that are super focussed, ones that work and ones that won’t – and everything between.

My favourite though is the breakthroughs. The ones that make a leap – they get a jab and counter down pat; or you push them to spar a shade above their ‘level’ & they surprise you with how well they cope.

I’ve been looking for the reasons for these leaps – the ones where you find yourself ahead of your own expectations (or other people’s). I think the key to it is this: I make it achievable. The thing I regularly ask my class to do? Their best. Not their ‘perfect’ – but their best. This is an important distinction. Because perfect is a pain in the ass.

Perfect is a Pain in the Ass.

It is when you’re training people.  I can’t do perfect. I try; but I can’t ask people who are learning boxing . . . or anything else . . . to do perfect. It gets in the way of progress. So we push for better or best – your better, your best. Not mine – and not perfect.

I know a few people: boxers, professionals, friends and even family, who impose very high standards on themselves. Standards that are sometimes too high – and when they fall short, they get downcast and beat themselves up. Then they buck up, promise themselves to do better, and re-set another lofty goal – only to fall, rinse and repeat.  You might know a few folks like that too.

You know what? That’s not growth.  It’s a road to self-doubt. And you need you in your own corner.  You need to know that you did the best you could. That you’ve got your own back, whatever else is going on. In the corner, and in life; if you know you can push for your best, and count on yourself to get it, then win lose or draw that’s a pretty special feeling, and no-one can ever take that from you.

The Push matters, The Perfect doesn’t.

If you’ve ever loved doing something, then you’ve been there. You’ve pushed yourself as hard as you can to be perfect, to do something exactly the way it should be done; because we’ve seen those champions and want to follow their example.  Who wouldn’t want to box like Ali? Who wouldn’t want to give a speech like Obama? And so we push for perfect.

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
—John Steinbeck, East of Eden

You know what? It’s the push that matters, much more than the perfect. We want attainable goals here. Because you progress more doing and achieving something the honest best that you can right now. If you do your best, your very best in training, or preparing, your honest best, every time? You’ll be fine.  And you’ll be ready on time too . . . because

Over-analysis causes paralysis.

OK this I’ve seen a bunch of times. Fighters, over-thinking things. Watching and re-watching and thinking about other people’s styles and fights – Marciano, Ali, Tyson, Mayweather.  Analysing everything . . . and overthinking everything. If, on the other hand, you drill your fundamentals, as well as you know how, every time – you’ll be unstoppable.

“Before I learned the art, a punch was just a punch, and a kick, just a kick.
After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick, no longer a kick.
Now that I understand the art, a punch is just a punch and a kick is just a kick.”
— Bruce Lee

Is Perfect Sustainable?

I have rarely seen a perfect boxing round. Willie Pep maybe (229-11-1), who once won a round of boxing without throwing a punch. (If you like boxing and don’t know who Willie Pep is, then please go here right now. I’ll wait.) Early Mike Tyson – a force of nature, fury personified. Hagler/Hearns, Conn/Louis,  Gatti/Ward and Ali/Frasier all produced some amazing rounds. But these are uncommon moments, made all the more special by their rarity.

The boxing ring is mostly chaos. A lot like life in that respect – you can prep all you want, but you don’t know what’s going to happen when the bell rings. And life laughs at ‘perfect’, every day.

So do your own preparation as best as you can. Make your goals achievable and realistic. Don’t burn time chasing perfect; just be the best you can be. You’ll find if you do that, when the bell goes, you’ll be ready, and you’ll have your own back.

And keep your hands up!

Mike W.


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